This is another article in
The National Lum and Abner Society's
Online Edition of
The Jot 'Em
Down Journal:
Lum and Abner - 80th Anniversary!
This article was originally published in The Jot 'Em Down Journal Volume 17, Number 5, Whole Number 101, April
2001. The printed version is no longer available.  Tim Hollis authored this article, which has been slightly edited and
modified for this web format.
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By now it should be fairly obvious that this month officially
marks the 80th anniversary of the
Lum and Abner program.
As we shall see in a moment, there is really some question
as to just what date in April is the true anniversary, but what
is certain is that their debut was on Hot Springs radio station
KTHS. In his comprehensive study of radio & television in
Arkansas,
Arkansas Airwaves (1974), the late Ray
Poindexter led into the L&A section with this basic
background information:

[KTHS manager] Cam Arnoux maintained a continuous
search for talent. In 1931, his search led to a bonanza. Two
young Mena businessmen had established quite a local
reputation by entertaining the home folks with their
blackface act. They were members of various civic groups
including the Lions Club. Chester Lauck had been born in
Allene, Arkansas, in 1902. Norris Goff had entered the world
in 1906 at Cove, Arkansas. Both had moved to Mena while
still young boys. Lauck (known to his friends as "Chet") had
been at the University of Arkansas from 1922 to 1925. Goff
had been there during the first semester of 1923 before
transferring to the University of Oklahoma.

Lauck had majored in art and drama. He had wanted to
become a cartoonist. After graduation he had studied art in
Chicago. Both had returned to Mena after their formal
education was completed. Chet managed an automobile
finance business, and "Tuffy" (a nickname Goff had received
when someone had commented about his football play, "He
may be little, but he sure is tough") worked with his father in
the wholesale grocery business. He called on stores
throughout the area.

Someone had suggested that they get on the radio. In
response to that suggestion, Mena citizens had been told
that the two would be on the radio from Hot Springs and they
could be heard in the Elks Auditorium where a loud speaker
had been placed. A good crowd gathered and listened to the
"program," only to have Chet and Tuffy walk downstairs and
tell them that the mike had been upstairs and not in the Spa
City.
________
Somehow, after this practical joke on their fellow townsmen,
Lauck & Goff and some other local talent did secure a
one-shot spot on KTHS, and made their first trip over to the
Hot Springs station on Saturday, April 18, 1931. Now, this is
where the first question about Lum and Abner's debut
arises. Without the benefit of any transcription discs, it is
impossible to know whether or not the two old characters
made their first appearance on this broadcast. The following
week,
The Mena Star reported on what had transpired:
________
KTHS RADIO STATION FAILED
- - - - - - - -
Listeners disappointed as Local Talent Was
Broadcasting Program
- - - - - - - -
Mena's radio entertainers met with misfortune Saturday
morning in the broadcast at KTHS at Hot Springs. Something
"went wrong after the local bunch had been on the air less
than ten minutes, and KTHS was dead so far as Mena
listeners were concerned. What caused the cessation of the
program was not made known, and the many friends of the
performers listening in were disappointed. Chester H. Lauck,
Norris Goff, Bill Beavers, Cliff Beavers and Olen Wilhite were
those taking part. "Chef and "Tuffy" were just going good
when the entertainment abruptly ended at 10:10. Later the
announcer at KTHS announced that failure of the
broadcasting equipment was responsible for the stopping of
the Mena program, which was sponsored by the Lions Club,
and an apology was made. The local performers will be given
another audition next week.
________

In the same edition, the paper gave further information on
the Mena group's upcoming second try:
________
"CHET" AND "TUFFY" BACK ON AIR APRIL 26
- - - - - - - -
"Chet" Lauck and "Tuffy" Goff, "whose broadcasting stunt
over KTHS was interrupted last week, will try again Sunday
afternoon, April 26, when they have been allotted time on the
program from 5 to 5:30 p.m. They will be assisted by the
Beavers Brothers trio with musical selections. The broadcast
program is sponsored by the Mena Lions Club.
________

Now, Lauck and Goff often told the story of how they
intended to do a blackface act on KTHS, but decided that
the airwaves were already overcrowded with potential
Amos
'n' Andy
s, so at the last minute they decided to be a couple
of backwoodsy old duffers named "Lum and Abner."
Whether that event occurred on the aborted April 18
broadcast or on the April 26 second attempt may never be
known. What is certain is that for the rest of their careers,
April 26 was given as the official debut date of
Lum and
Abner
, so that may be the only indication we have that they
were still doing their original blackface act on April 18.

The Mena Star is of little help in resolving the above
mystery, but the paper did give a glowing report of the
general format of that April 26 broadcast:
________
"CHET" AND "TUFFY" AND ORCHESTRA MADE
HIT
- - - - - - - -
Mena Folks Will Broadcast Again Over KTHS
Next Sunday
- - - - - - - -
Those who provided the Polk County program sponsored by
the Mena Lions Club over Station KTHS Sunday afternoon
pleased so many that the entertainers were given another
place on next Sunday's program. Those who went to Hot
Springs for the broadcast Sunday were Chester H. Lauck,
Norris Goff, Cecil Cartwright, Olen Wilhite, Bill and Cliff
Beavers. "Chet" and "Tuffy" had the talking parts and the
other four, members of Beaver Brothers orchestra, furnished
the music. A guitar solo by Cecil Cartwright was a pleasing
feature. The musical four played instruments made by J. B.
Watkins of this city. Before the Lions club program was
ended, the station management announced that the Polk
County entertainers would be back again next Sunday, this
announcement being in advance of the invitation later
extended to the players themselves.
________

(Coincidentally, in this same issue of
The Mena Star, in the
column next to the above report, was an article about the
April 28 wedding of Tuffy Goff's sister Ione, held at the Goff
family home in Mena. Sharp-eared listeners will notice that
"Ione" was usually the first name given to Lum's would-be
love interest, Widder Abernathy.)

What would have been considered the second official air
appearance of L&A took place on Sunday, May 3. A small
report appeared in the May 7 issue of the
Star, but it is
difficult to tell whether it is referring to the May 3 broadcast
or the original April 26 show. It read:
________
MENA VOICES TO NEBRASKA
- - - - - - - -
W. French Writes of Enjoying the Broadcast
from KTHS
- - - - - - - -
Voices of Mena men carried far over the radio Sunday and
brought pleasant memories of the home land to former
residents. A letter from Columbus, Nebraska, brought this
statement from W. French, for many years a dweller in the
Ouachita highlands:

"I wish you would say through The Star that Mr. and Mrs.
Elmer Eddy and myself heard the program put on at Hot
Springs by the Mena boys. We certainly enjoyed it and was
glad to hear voices and music from the old home town."
________

By the following week's paper, however, the pattern was
beginning to emerge. The May 14 issue reported on the May
10 broadcast, was the first mention of the names "Lum and
Abner" in print, and also gives us the only clue we may ever
have as to just what the emerging
Lum and Abner series
was like at this point in time:
________
"LUM AND ABNER" TO CONTINUE PROGRAMS
- - - - - - - -
Next Week, Over KTHS, They Will Visit the
State Capital and a "Show"
- - - - - - - -
Chester Lauck and Norris Goff held another "Weekly Visit of
Lum and Abner" over KTHS Sunday evening and gave the
best entertainment yet, so those in the radio audience report.
The Mena entertainers are proving so popular they were
announced to appear again next Sunday at which time they
will tell about going to court at Little Rock, at which time they
also expect to attend one of those "girlie" shows they have
heard about, and which will be done if possible without the
knowledge of Mrs. Lum and Mrs. Abner.
________

It sounds as though the concept of Lum and Abner
appearing in court for one reason or another was
established very early on, and would be repeated countless
times during the following 23 years. It is also significant that
the article says L&A were going to try to attend a "girlie
show," indicating that the concept of the characters'
personalities may have been somewhat different. Lastly,
with its reference to "Mrs. Lum and Mrs. Abner," it sounds
as though at this point Lum was considered to be married
(as was Chet Lauck in real life) instead of the well-known
"bashful bachelor" of later shows.

Although the radio publicity mill has been known to be
wildly inaccurate about some things, including many parts
of L&A history, when it has been said that their rise to fame
was incredibly fast, it is the absolute truth. In that same May
14 issue of
The Mena Star, after only three appearances of
L&A on the air, the following ad was placed by Mena
photographers Oscar & Eloise Plaster:

"LUM AND ABNER"
Our own Radio stars, are answering their fan mail with
pictures of themselves, in character and as they really are,
with Photographs made by us.
The Mena Studio
Mena, Arkansas

Those first publicity photos have their own undeniable, if
somewhat crude, charm. One of them can be seen on the
cover of this issue (reproduced for you in the column at
right), with others reproduced here. Eloise Plaster later
recalled that Lauck and Goff literally threw their costumes
together from whatever clothes they could find, and that
Abner's trademark goatee was actually a feather. It can be
seen that the two comics, or the Plasters, went to some
lengths to try to simulate wrinkles in the young performers'
faces, much less convincingly than RKO Radio Pictures
would do for their movies many years in the future.

The May 28
Mena Star continued its coverage of the truly
meteoric rise of the pair:
________
"LUM & ABNER" GO FAR
- - - - - - - -
"Lum & Abner" of Mena are increasing the size of their radio
audience over KTHS. Latest requests for photos of the
young Mena entertainers have come from points as far
distant as Pensacola, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Los Angeles,
Calif. They will be on the air again Sunday evening at 7 p.m.
________

Ray Poindexter found that at some point during the latter
part of May, perhaps Memorial Day, a civic event in Mena
had its tongue firmly in cheek when it reported that "Lum
and Abner, the famous radio stars, have been secured for a
personal appearance at great expense." This may be
considered their first public appearance outside of the
broadcasting studio, but it was soon followed by another, as
reported in the June 11 paper:
________
ELKS WILL OBSERVE FLAG DAY ON MONDAY
- - - - - - - -
Instructive Program Has Been Arranged; "Lum
and Abner" to Appear
- - - - - - - -
Flag Day exercises will be held by Mena lodge of Elks on
Monday evening, June 15, at the lodge home. A program of
interesting and instructive features is being prepared. The
Rev. Arthur Terry will make the address, the history of the
creation of the American flag will be given; "Lum & Abner"
are to appear, and there will be musical and other numbers.
Friends and families of the members are to gather in force
and the general public is invited. An informal social hour will
follow the program.
________

Things were certainly moving fast. On June 23, the Star
reported:
________
LUM AND ABNER TO TRY OUT ON BIG CIRCUIT
- - - - - - - -
Will Have Audition Soon Before National
Broadcasting Board
- - - - - - - -
"Lum and Abner," Mena's young radio entertainers, have a
chance to get on the big time circuit. Since Chester H. Lauck
and Norris Goff have been giving the "weekly visits" over
KTHS, their work has gained wide attention, and this week
they were notified they are to have an audition before the
National Broadcasting board. This will be in Chicago, some
time in July. The definite time will be announced later.
________

We still do not know just what these early broadcasts
concerned, but apparently Lauck & Goff were already using
the community of Waters, and the general store belonging to
their old friend Dick Huddleston, as the focal point of their
skits. In the Waters news briefs of the July 2 issue of the
Star, the following small paragraph appeared:

Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Huddleston, Mrs. Eddie Williams, Mrs. Eva
Hicks and Mrs. Ola Hooper went to Mena Sunday evening to
listen to "Lum and Abner" broadcast from Hot Springs.

It would not be long before Dick Huddleston would begin
capitalizing upon his radio fame, but for the time being there
was enough to do just getting
Lum and Abner started. We
can only imagine how Lauck & Goff must have been feeling
at the time, but the July 9 paper leaves no doubt that their
popularity was for real:
________

"LUM & ABNER" FAME SPREADS IN THE
PAPERS
- - - - - - - -
Arkansas Laugh-Makers Get Much Publicity; at
Lyric Last Night
- - - - - - - -
The fame of "Lum & Abner" continues to grow. A recently
published picture of the Mena radio entertainers in the
Arkansas Democrat has been copied by other newspapers.
Chester H. Lauck, "Lum" of the team, has received word that
the pictures have appeared in papers at Jonesboro, Ark.,
Springfield, Mo., and Peoria, III. "Lum & Abner" appeared in
person at the Lyric Wednesday night and pleased a large
audience of home folks with their wit and humor. The young
entertainers, who are soon to appear before the National
Broadcasting company in Chicago, told in an interesting way
of their coming trip to Chicago.
________

When asked where they got the names "Lum" and "Abner,"
Chet Lauck was always quick to reply that he did not know
why he came up with the name "Lum," as he had never
heard of anyone who was called that. Apparently this is
another bit of incorrect history, as in the July 9 newspaper
was also reported the July 4 death of Polk County pioneer
"Uncle Lum" Brown at age 77, and since even the
newspaper knew the old gentleman by that name, it seems
certain that the Lauck family would have heard of him too.
Conversely, Tuffy Goff mentioned that he had known a lot of
men named "Abner" in his day, but it would be impossible to
select any one resident of the Mena area who could be said
to be Mr. Peabody's namesake.

                                                    
  - Tim Hollis
PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS:

























This is the cover of the April 2001 issue of The Jot 'Em
Down Journal
where the information in this article was
published. Of course, at that time we were celebrating
the 70th anniversary of
Lum and Abner!


































KTHS advertised their radio station and their city by
proclaiming their call letters to be an acronym for "Kum
to Hot Springs."
























































The first publicity photo of the new comedy team of Lum
& Abner, made by Mena photographers Oscar & Eloise
Plaster, May 1931.














































































Oscar and Eloise Plaster produced the first photographs
of the new comedy team in their Mena Studio. Later Mr.
Plaster went on the road (as far as Waters anyway) with
Chet and Tuffy to produce even photos of local citizens
posing as Pine Ridge
characters.
































Chet Lauck and Tuffy Goff, out of character at their first
photo shoot in Mena, May 1931.


























Postcard issued to promote the original L&A series on
KTHS, 1931.

















































A print from the original negative photographed by Oscar
and Eloise Plaster in 1931. This is the same shot used
on the cover of the April 2001 issue of
The Jot 'Em
Down Journal.





Happy
80th
Anniversary
Lum and
Abner!
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This is the cover of the April 2001 issue of The Jot 'Em Down Journal where the information in this article was published. Of course, at that time we were celebrating the 70th anniversary of Lum and Abner!
KTHS advertised their radio station and their city by proclaiming their call letters to be an acronym for
The first publicity photo of the new comedy team of Lum & Abner, made by Mena photographers Oscar & Eloise Plaster, May 1931.
Oscar and Eloise Plaster produced the first photographs of the new comedy team in their Mena Studio. Later Mr. Plaster went on the road (as far as Waters anyway) with Chet and Tuffy to produce even photos of local citizens posing as Pine Ridge characters.
Chet Lauck and Tuffy Goff, out of character at their first photo shoot in Mena, May 1931.
Postcard issued to promote the original L&A series on KTHS, 1931.
A print from the original negative photographed by Oscar and Eloise Plaster in 1931. This is the same shot used on the cover of the April 2001 issue of The Jot 'Em Down Journal.
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